Some time last week news trickled in that LSU secured the commitment of South Florida (Fort Pierce) DE/LB Sharieff Rhaheed-Muhammed. After a few phone calls and what not, others confirmed that the coaching staff, in fact, hadn't accepted the commit, but would once Rhaheed-Muhammed visited. Now days later, Rhaheed-Muhammed and his mother tripped to Baton Rouge to lock up the commitment. It seemed, for a short while, this may go the way of Adam Taylor, but this one quickly resolved itself and wound up being true (not that Rhaheed-Muhammed would have lied, but those situations are always sticky).
This could, literally, be a case of the coaching staff wanting to lay eyes on the kid. They've seen the tape, maybe seen him from a distance in some Spring Practices or something, but couldn't quite be sure if he's as big as they needed. When SRM (sorry, I'm lazy) showed up to campus and checked in at a legit 6'2.5", all was eased and his offer became immediately commitable. This is purely me guessing, though.
There's already a decent amount of water-throwing onto the commitment. SRM is unranked by all of the services and listed as a DE. From interviews today, it's clear Chavis is projecting him to an OLB role. A 6'2-6'3, 205 lb. DE is a bit of a shaky endeavor, so if the kid has the athleticism, why not stick him at LB? Still people will complain there are higher ranked LBs in this class we are after and that spots are already tight, so why spend one on SRM? Check out the tape:
Those are neither the best, nor the worst, highlights you've ever seen. Mind you, these are of SRM as a sophomore. What I see are a lot of "can't coach 'em" abilities. There is natural speed, strength and explosion packed into a guy who doesn't look refined at all. He doesn't know how to tackle. The next pass-rushing move he learns, will be the first one. He's used almost exclusively as a rush end, but he's surprisingly stout at the point of attack and does show some good use of the hands to disengage. He plays the run very well. What I most like is despite the tools, he's a high effort player. SRM never gives up on a play. In fact, there are multiple plays on the tape where he's making tackles on the opposite side of the field simply in pursuit. That illustrates both his athleticism and his tremendous effort.
But from this tape, you still wouldn't say, "Okay, that's an SEC LB." Well, let's fast forward a year.
Firstly, a few things are immediately evident from this tape. He's playing in space. They have him lined up outside the hashes over the slot receiver in a trips formation. He jams the slot, discards him, jams the next guy, discards him and then finishes pursuit and makes the tackle. That's impressive stuff.
On the second clip, you still see that explosion, but what I really love is the closing speed. Obviously we don't get to see his lowlights, but you don't see many guys getting away from SRM. When he's in the vicinity, you are going down. This is a big deal for pass rushers. You have to be able to close out. I'm not sure how you measure or test that, but it sure does show up on tape. I can guarantee you there will be guys with better testing numbers than SRM that don't close as well as he does.
Keep watching and chime in if you fail to be impressed. 1 minute and 11 seconds into the tape and I can say confidently, "This kid is an SEC LB." I've harped on the physical traits, but it's not just speed and athleticism either. On one play he drops into coverage, quickly diagnoses a screen play and is right there to blow up the receiver as he catches the pass. On others you can see him break down the action of the run plays and get to the spot before the blocks are fully aligned.
Those type of instincts to go with his physical traits are what make him SEC caliber. In many ways he reminds me of lesser Kwon Alexander. I don't think he's as talented as Kwon, but there's a lot to like here. Chavis says he likes him as a WILL and that makes sense to me. He's a broad shouldered kid with some growing to do, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if he did wind up at DE. Interestingly, SRM is yet another of those hybrid type of defenders that typically look more like 3-4 OLBs. At the end of the day, pass rushers are pass rushers and every coach will find a way to get them on the field. SRM's talents should extend beyond the pass-rushing arena, as he has the athleticism to morph into a true three-down LB.